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The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk released updated election results at approximately 1:45 p.m. on May 26 that showed opponents of Measures B and C maintaining a slim lead.
According to the updated results, 50.88% of voters (3,563) voted no on Measure B, while 49.12% of voters (3,440) voted yes on Measure B.
Meanwhile, 50.89% of voters (3,565) voted no on Measure C, and 49.11% of voters (3,440) voted yes on the measure.
The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk announced that there are 135 outstanding vote by mail ballots left to be processed. All of the ballots are pending signature corrections from voters whose signature was missing on the return envelope or did not match their registration record. The voters have been notified with instructions on how to correct their ballots so they will be counted.
The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk will continue to accept vote by mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day and received through Tuesday, May 30.
The scheduled vote tally update on May 30 has been canceled. The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is scheduled to release a final tally and certify the election at 10 a.m. on June 2.
This article was updated on May 26 to reflect new election results.
Following a contentious campaign for the controversial LVMH Cheval Blanc hotel project, preliminary results of a special election show opponents of Measures B and C with a slim margin.
After the Beverly Hills City Council approved the plan in November, a grassroots effort halted the project and a special election left the decision to voters. A razor thin majority of residents have voted against the two measures that would allow the project to go forward, according to initial results released by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
“If these results hold, I am completely staggered by what has happened and my faith in the residents of Beverly Hills is completely renewed,” said Deborah Blum, principal officer of Residents Against Overdevelopment, a grassroots group opposing the project.
“I am encouraged by the fact that so many of our voters were not status-starved people we are often thought to be by outsiders,” added Darian Bojeaux, treasurer for Residents Against Overdevelopment. “Instead, our voters demonstrated that they are smart, that they understand why our city is a lovely place to live, that they have a desire to preserve our quality of life and could not be distracted by fanciful promises of future income.”
The election results released after the polls closed on May 23 showed 50.52% of voters (2,909) voted no on Measure B, which asks if residents want to approve the zoning change allowing the development to go forward. The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office said 49.48% of voters (2,849) voted yes on Measure B.
Measure C asks if residents want to approve the city’s development agreement with LVMH. The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office said 50.51% of voters (2,908) voted no on the measure, while 49.49% (2,849) voted yes, according to early results. Additional mail-in ballots continue to be counted.
Despite a campaign that heated up in recent weeks, only a small portion of the Beverly Hills population turned out to vote. Just 26.07% of registered voters (5,778) cast ballots, with the vast majority choosing to vote by mail before Election Day. According to the County Clerk, 91.68% of ballots (5,297) were cast by mail, while only 8.32% (481) were cast at the vote center at City Hall Municipal Gallery, 455 N. Rexford Drive.
A ballot update is scheduled on May 26, and the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office is “tentatively” scheduled to certify the votes on June 2, a spokesperson said.
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan stopped by the vote center on May 23 to see operations.
“It’s been fairly steady. Obviously, in these smaller elections, we don’t see the same level of activity that we see in an even-year election, for instance, but it’s been pretty steady,” Logan said. “When we drove in, we saw somebody at the drop box across the street dropping off their ballot.”
People exiting the polls were closely split on their opinions of the Cheval Blanc project, mirroring the outcome in the early unofficial results. Dr. Michele Kalt said she supports the project and thinks it will be a benefit for Beverly Hills.
“I think that it will bring a lot of amazing resources to our city that are much needed. And I know that they vetted the project very carefully,” Kalt said. “If they feel that it’s going to help our city, I would love for it to thrive.”
“I think it’s a good thing,” resident Chris Eskijian said. “It’s not a negative thing, it’s a positive thing for business.”
Some believe the project will adversely impact the character of the city’s Golden Triangle.
“We said no to it,” said resident Clarisse C., who declined to give her last name. “[We] think the community, like us, wants to maintain what we have here.”
“I don’t think we should change the climate of Rodeo Drive,” added resident Michael Jones. “Why do we need another hotel?”
With LVMH pouring more than $2.35 million into the campaign and securing lucrative endorsements from labor unions and prominent Beverly Hills residents including former and current mayors, Blum said she was “stunned” by the early results.
“I didn’t think we had a chance,” she said.
It was also cast by some as an existential fight over the essence of Beverly Hills. While supporters portrayed the development as a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure the city’s high-quality of life, opponents portrayed it as a threat to the character of the Golden Triangle that would boost the portfolio of Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest man and chairman and CEO of LVMH, while giving few benefits to city residents.
The May 23 election followed a lengthy review process that included multiple hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council. While most of the council supported the project, it was opposed by Councilman John Mirisch, who said the city’s development agreement favored LVMH. The agreement earmarked $26 million for the city’s general fund and imposed a 5% surcharge on room rates on top of the city’s 14% transient tax, but Mirisch still did not feel it went far enough, he said.
“Considering all the money they spent and the way they played dirty, in many ways it’s a stinging rebuke to the yes side,” Mirisch said on May 24, adding that he is most concerned about the amount of money that was spent in support of the project and how he believes it tainted the election. “Elections should not be bought. Sadly, greed has infected our electorate system.”
Mirisch joined organizers of labor union Unite Here Local 11 in criticizing the project for not allocating funds for affordable housing. After the project was approved in November, Unite Here organizers and residents, largely led by Bojeaux, began gathering petition signatures to rescind the project. In January, they met the threshold required to trigger a special election. The nine-story building would replace a cluster of buildings on North Rodeo and North Beverly drives, including the former home of the Paley Center for Media.
The opposition movement sparked controversy as supporters of Measures B and C said it was an attempt by outside interests, namely Unite Here, to influence the outcome of a local election. They claimed the group used threatening and misleading tactics to sway voters.
Planning Commissioner Peter Ostroff said the project has undergone intense public scrutiny, including five hearings before the Planning Commission. It would be a shame for a campaign financed by an outside union to trump a robust public approval process, he said. Economists hired by LVMH estimated that over a 30-year period, the project could generate $778 million for the city’s general fund.
“This is a terrible result for the city if [the measures] don’t pass,” Ostroff said. “I understand the yes folks are still optimistic it will pass, and I hope they’re right.”
This story will be updated when more election results are released.
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I think 26% of voters casting ballots on a single-issue election (ballots that were counted as of Tuesday) is remarkable, and likely due to the new rules allowing early voting and vote-by-mail. I am glad that California lead the way in empowering voters to be able to do their duty easily. I am also glad to live in a state that does all it can not to disenfranchise voters. People on both sides of issues will simply have to realize that there may be no such thing as a “small” election anymore and they cannot plan on help from small voter turnout to sway an election in the way they wish it to go.